M.B.A. academy goes STEM


UI sophomores Cesar Perez and Ryan Scott study in the Pentacrest on Wednesday, March 11, 2015. (The Daily Iowan/McCall Radavich)

By Elianna Novitch

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Students in the Business Analytics Academy, a part of the Tippie College of Business’ full-time M.B.A. program, will soon have a more competitive edge to their degrees now that it has been designated as part of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics program.

“It is very unusual for an M.B.A. program to get a STEM designation,” said Kristine Arens, the business director of the academy. “Generally, business courses aren’t seen as being quantitative, but because we have such a diverse group of business courses and technical courses, we were able to make that STEM designation happen.”

The Business Analytics Academy — a relatively new program — is just in its second year at the Tippie M.B.A. program.

“The trend in the business world is to be more technical and to have quantitative and analytical skills,” Arens said. “For us to be able to say that our program meets those standards through this designation is a great thing.”

Some of the classes offered as part of the Business Analytics Academy that are technical and statistics-based include Programming with R, Database Systems, Business Analytics, Advanced Analytics, and Data Science.

“The STEM designation will signify to the outside world that our students really have a depth of quantitative skills and a breadth of business acumen that they get through the full time M.B.A. program,” said Jennifer Blackhurst, the faculty director of the academy. “STEM is, for many companies, very attractive. [The designation] will help with the visibility of our program; it will help our students get placed, and it indicates that our students are ready to go out there and hit the ground running.”

In order to get the designation, the M.B.A. office had to apply through the UI to the U.S. Department of Education.

“I think how this designation will affect the program is yet to be seen,” said M.B.A. Director of Student Services Jill Tomkins. “There are a lot of companies that are looking for STEM students, and this designation will help our students become more visible to those companies.”

Recently, there has been an increased interest in business analytics, and Blackhurst said she thinks the STEM designation will continue to contribute to that growth.

“I think we are going to see that there will be an increase in interest in both students and employers,” Blackhurst said. “That will definitely be something we will have to take into consideration in the future.”

The designation will provide students with unique skills, positioning them as ideal candidates post-graduation, Blackhurst said.

Students with a STEM degree in business analytics can apply for positions in internal consulting, operations managing, and more.

“It’s not enough anymore to just say ‘Yes, I took a whole bunch of technical classes’; they want to see that on your degree specifically,” Arens said. “So hopefully, this designation will mean better opportunities for our students. They are going to be very well-rounded when they go out in the business world.”

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